The Rev. John L. McCullough is President and CEO of Church World Service, the global humanitarian agency with programs in development and humanitarian affairs, advocacy for social justice, and refugee assistance. Under his leadership, CWS is known as an innovative and adaptive leader in its programmatic fields, engaged in transformative relationships.
McCullough has been at the forefront of agency efforts to press for Enough for All – the needs of the hungry and the displaced, human rights and the empowerment of civil society. Most recently, McCullough conceived of and implemented the long-term process of CWS 2020, to embolden the agency in times of sweeping change across international relations, ecumenical and interfaith landscapes, and in the church as it is transformed in the Global North and South.
Finding the bold voice is at the very heart of CWS’s work. Says McCullough, “Whether the challenge is chronic or in crisis, we dedicate ourselves to working with affected people to hear their needs, access the resources necessary to address those needs, and build a foundation for their future.” During 2010, McCullough was outspoken in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform; though the legislation did not pass the U.S. Congress, CWS is committed to its message of inclusion.
As architect of the CWS Africa Initiative, he presented to members of the United Nations HABITAT community his vision to guide the establishment of School Safe Zones – secure, stimulating and nurturing environments for youth. The government of Kenya collaborated with CWS on the publication and distribution of a School Safe Zones Manual to extend the reach of the program to schools throughout the country. This program is now implemented in other global settings, as are two other Initiative Programs: the Youth Empowerment Program, creating sustainable livelihoods and communities for orphans of HIV and AIDS, and Durable Solutions for the Displaced.
McCullough has overseen the agency’s concentration on sustainable access to food and water in the face of climate change. CWS’s Enough for All campaign includes the emphasis on nutrition in addition to food security, especially for children five and under and for mothers, and on the access to water as a human right. McCullough gave the keynote address at Liberia’s Consultation on Climate Change, Human Rights, Peace and Security, hosted by the All Africa Conference of Churches and attended the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen.
McCullough is a member of the White House Task Force on Global Poverty and Development. He visited the White House in November 2010 as a member of an ecumenical delegation to stress the urgent need to manage poverty and hunger in the United States, as well as international concerns; and in April 2010 as part of a group of African American leaders.
A graduate of the Boston University School of Theology, McCullough was honored with its Distinguished Alumni award. An ordained minister in The United Methodist Church, he has served pastorates in the United States and Kenya and has held leadership positions at the denomination’s global mission agency before joining CWS in 2000.
McCullough has led delegations to the Thailand-Burma border, site of a major humanitarian crisis for thousands of displaced people; a precedent-setting delegation to Israel and Palestine of faith leaders representing the historic African American churches; a delegation to North Korea in response to its growing political and humanitarian crisis; to Colombia to investigate the plight of displaced and abused Afro-Colombian people; and to the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Gambia to support peace-building efforts by churches in West Africa’s Mano River Union.
McCullough participated in a high level humanitarian mission to Iraq before the war, sponsored by the Center for Social and Economic Rights. He was the key spokesperson for CWS’s opposition to the U.S. pre-emptive strike against Iraq and against military control of humanitarian response within Iraq – a condition that has effects still today in other areas of conflict and response.
McCullough continues to challenge CWS to “dramatically expand its capacity and impact in the fight to end hunger” in this decade through working with “the grassroots – which is precisely what CWS has emphasized throughout its history.”